As Stephen Hawking biopic ‘The Theory Of Everything’ comes to cinemas, here are some of the brightest minds making Earth a better place as we speak…
A 52-year-old Italian particle physicist, she led the ATLAS experiment at CERN, which in 2012 discovered the long-sought Higgs boson particle which provides mass to matter and was one of the primary reasons for the building of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. In 2016, she will take over as the director of the entire project as they push into new frontiers in experimental physics. She will be the first woman to do so.
Dissolvable electronic materials – that’s what this American engineer is trying to perfect, in a bid to create materials that could be integrated into biological organisms (i.e. humans) with minimal problems. The potential is huge – environmentally-friendly gadgets that protect the planet by degrading naturally and bio-medical instruments which can be used in advanced surgery or within human patients.
Shankardass’s area of expertise is developmental disorders in children, which she is trying to more accurately diagnose with her unique way of utilising electroencephalography (EEG) technology. Born in London, her pioneering work in the field of neuroscience is seeking to improve and transform the diagnosis and understanding of conditions like autism and dyslexia in kids.
One of the most famous scientists ever, Hawking has been at the forefront of theoretical physics for decades. His work on black holes is ground-breaking, as is his research into gravitational singularity theory. He now promotes the need for humanity to search for a home beyond Earth and is a proponent of top-down cosmology. He continues this work as research director in his department at Cambridge University.
So impressive he has a scientific institute named after him, 68-year-old J Craig Venter from Salt Lake City, Utah was one of the first to sequence the human genome in 2001, thus exponentially opening up medical advancement more than it ever had before. He has since started mapping the biodiversity of the ocean and is now focusing on creating synthetic organisms, primarily to find things that will produce alternative fuels. Not only that, but he served in Vietnam.
Tour is a New York-born chemist, who is one of the world’s leading experts in nanotechnology. Working out of Rice University in Texas, his research has been used in various different fields, from medicine to so-called nanocars – a single molecule which can roll on metal surfaces (so not strictly a car with a motor, but one of the first steps towards such a thing). His most recent work includes trying to turn coal into fluorescent particles by transforming the black stuff into graphene quantum dots.
The now-82-year-old Frenchman was head of the first group of virologists to isolate the HIV virus, before it was known to be what caused AIDS. He received the 2008 Nobel Prize for his research. He has since become a world-leading expert in the disease, co-founding the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention. He continues to do cutting-edge research into the virus at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Sir Tim was at CERN in 1989 when he came up with what we now know as the World Wide Web and rather than patent it for his own financial gain, he decided to give it to the world as a gift, thereby facilitating what we know as the modern internet. The Brit now spends most of his time campaigning for transparency and freedom online, as director of the World Wide Web Foundation and president of the Open Data Institute.